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telling me that it was the one most in vogue for the promenade in the Bois de Boulogne. It was composed of a few purple violets, a sprig of valerian, a lily of the valley, and a blossom of the wood-strawberry, with one single specimen of its beautiful scarlet fruit. It was a chef-d'æuvre in its exquisite simplicity, and I felt proud of the very complacency with which she herself surveyed it, placing it in the most advantageous position, and then stepping back to view the general effect. R-told me, with a jealous sneer, that I looked murderous ; and this observation, of course, completely consoled me for the departure of the five-franc piece from my own pocket to that in the apron of the bouquetière, in exchange for an article of which even the nominal value could have been scarcely a single sou.
“ Always pleasantly engaged, Madame Robert," said my friend to the bouquetière, as she laid down, upon the cool marble counter, the finished chaplet which she had been braiding; "why, your life must pass away amid dreams of love and beauty, in wafting blessings with the blossoms that are twined around the brow of each youthful bride, and in vows for the happiness of those who receive with more gladness these offerings of friendship when twined by you.”
She laughed outright at my friend's attempt at poetical inspiration, but, suddenly checking herself, she said, mournfully,
“You forget that we must, at times, have other thoughts than those of love, and mirth, and marriage,” and she touched a wreath of amaranth, which hung against the wall; “even amid my work, I sometimes sigh to think that it will be worn rather with tears than smiles. Look at yonder snow-white wreath: 'tis for the lame and patient daughter of one of our oldest peers. She will be united to-morrow to a heartless spendthrift, who, broken in health and fortune, with no one single quality to justify the high name he bears, yet comes, an unwilling, nay, a sneering bridegroom to the altar, deeming himself a sacrifice in being united to one all gentleness and guileless purity; while she, on her part, would gladly resign all hopes of grandeur, to pass away her days amid the calm and quiet of the old convent from which she is to be torn for to-morrow's ceremony. Here is a bouquet, to be worn by a buxom widow, who adorns herself, for the third time, with the nuptial blossoms. As she is forbidden by custom to wear the orange flower, which can be assumed but once, she has ordered jessamine. I work without spirit, for I almost feel as if I were an accomplice in this arrogant pretension to youth and innocence.”
She pointed to the bunch of delicate flowers which lay before her, and I took it up to breathe its exquisite fragrance. As I did so, I could not forbear a smile. I perceived that the sly, satirical philosopher, had introduced here and there a few Michaelmas daisies, and her glowing black eyes twinkled with fun and mischief, as they met my glance.
She, however, continued her occupations with as much unconcern as if we had been a hundred leagues distant, and thus, in the midst of much quiet pleasantry, sometimes seasoned by a reflection full of melancholy, or an aphorism worthy of a professed philosopher, did she invent and execute the most beautiful productions, worthy to adorn the artist's study, to be gazed upon as models when a Madonna was to be crowned with flowers, or a sleeping Jesus to be strewn with blossoms by the hands of ministering angels, telling us, at the same time, the individual
destination of each one, with such infinite grace and humour, that I no longer wondered at the fascination which had so often held R— spellbound for hours at her side.
“ This pale camelia, with its shining leaves turned all downwards to the stem, is for an actress of one of the minor theatres, from a stripling heir, who is beginning to despair, because the object of his flame has never worn the bunch of carnations he sent her a day or two ago. Rely upon it she will grow frightened at the message, and will wear in her hair to-night a wreath of damask-roses, even though she should be called upon to act the part of nun or vestal. Here is a bunch of marigolds from the young moustached Duc de D- to the Countess SHe is evidently bent on a journey ; look at the sprig of purple heath; 'tis to some mountains -no doubt the Pyrenees. I warrant me I shall have an order, before the day is out, for the same ugly mixture, with the addition of a blue corn-flower, a sprig of jasmine, and a half-blown rose, signifying confidence, and truth, and hope ; and then madame will fall sick in time to avoid suspicion, and be ordered to the eaux, whither her trusting husband will of course hasten to convey her. Yonder wreath, made from
the pith of the bull-rush, is for the Holy Virgin, in one of the side chapels of St. Roch. It is the offering of a poor little damsel, whose lover has just recovered from a fit of illness, which the maiden deems owing to her prayers. Now, I worked at this with right good will—nay, do not sneer, it is a first, fresh, early love; they are both scarce sixteen. Here are bouquets for the young Marquise d’A- She will, perhaps, shut herself in her boudoir alone for hours, to inhale their sweets at leisure. In the course of my long career, she is but the second I have met with who carried this nervous susceptibility to so great a pitch. It is her life, and she could no more live without flowers, than she could breathe without air, or see without the light of heaven.”
While she had been speaking, she had filled the large basket which Babet, the peasant girl, her aid and messenger,
her arm, and the latter soon after took her departure, to convey the various orders to their respective destinations. But one single object remained upon the marble slab.
It was a wreath of the common white daisy, so lightly and elegantly wrought, that it might have been a meet ornament for the tresses of the proudest beauty of the land. I thought she had forgotten to place it in the basket with the rest, and, catching some of my friend R——'s complacency, I stepped after Babet to call her back, but the bouquetière detained me, while a dark shadow passed across her calm open brow, as she said,
“Nay, nay, you are too good : 'tis not for profit that I wove that garland, it was for my own pleasure, and, although it be but a melancholy one, yet, after all, it is some little relief to turn from ministering to the idle passions and miserable vanities of others, to satisfy the purest of our soul's affections."
A tear glistened in her eye, as she took the wreath and gazed upon it mournfully; but, presently rallying, she added, with her own meaning smile,
“ You, who are young, would scarcely credit the number of these garlands I have already woven. Could I now see them displayed before me, they would form a most goodly monument to the memory of departed years, and might serve to teach the young, the beautiful, and the gifted,
that there may be some who, being none of these, may yet live to deck their graves, and whose humble love may end in being all that is left to stand between them and oblivion."
Both Rand myself naturally felt our curiosity excited to know the history of her for whose tomb she had been at pains to weave that delicate garland, and we both uttered a pressing request that the bouquetière would relate to us a history which had power to call up such mournful recollections in her mind.
“I ought, perhaps, to hesitate to tell it you," said she, sorrowfully; “ for I can scarcely deem it just thus to lay open the woes of one who in life, would have shrunk from owning them, even to herself. It is but a melancholy tale, and, were I a man, I should feel some little shame in hearing it; and if I now consent to tell it you, 'tis only with a hope that the memory of what I am about to recount may serve as a warning."
The hour for the opera was passed, there could be no further chance of catching the longing envious eye of any fair dame hurrying to the ball or the theatre, no hope of seducing the five franc piece from the pocket of the indulgent husband or doting lover. Babet was gone for the night, so the bouquetière closed the shutters, and drawing the high stool upon which she was seated nearer to us, while she still held that pale dim garland in her hand, she told us the following story, in which I have endeavoured as much as possible to follow the style of the narrator.
GEORGETTE COMMENCES HER TALE. “It is now, alas! many, many years since I first came to Paris, all alone, one fine summer's morning, with no other baggage than a basket made of fresh peeled osiers, hanging on one arm, and a blue cotton handkerchief suspended from the other. The basket was well stored with the sweetest roses, packed in fresh cool moss, my whole stock in trade, and the kerchief contained a brown and wholesome home-made loaf of my mother's own baking, which was to enable me to wait without fear the appearance of my first customer.
« The old coche rumbled none the heavier for bearing me among its passengers, for my baggage consisted of nought but flowers, while my soul was full of hope, and my heart so light and so o'erflowing with love towards the whole creation, that it felt as if verily borne on wings of gratitude to Heaven. Ah, well-a-day! I often ask myself can it indeed be me? Am I indeed that same Georgette I sometimes see through the dim veil of memory and time, as I then made my first entry into this great metropolis on that bright and sunny morning? Mon Vieu! I thought that all men were noble and just, and all women gentle and true, and believed from my soul that Jean Baille, the faithless shepherd, who had robbed my poor mother and beggared her children, was the only rogue to be met with in the whole universe. Alas! the memory of such fond credulity alone would suffice to prove how long, how very long, it is since then !
"I wore at that time the high Champenois cap, and the short full petticoat of the girls of my province. The little scarlet boddice I well remember was a chef-d'æuvre. It had taken my good aunt, Scolastique, twelve months in embroidering. I was then as smart a little figure as might be seen from one end of France to the other, with small waist
and delicate ancles, and pert, inquisitive, jet blackeyes, which the young gentlemen used to say, seemed to bid defiance as they passed. To say truth, I was a saucy jade, and shrank not from measuring speech with the smartest and most smooth-tongued among them all.
“It was my good old grandmother who took charge of me on my arrival, and well do I remember how I used to be diverted by her anxiety concerning me, and how she would lean upon her stick to gaze from the little lucarne of our attic, until I was lost to sight, and then, when she could see me no longer, she would sit herself down and weep to think that her age and infirmities should prevent her from accompanying me to guard me against evil, and above all to warn me against the honeyed words of the young gentlemen, who would sometimes gather round my basket, like bees hovering about a tulip-bed, and who loved greatly to measure with me in the merry war of wit and sarcasm. But the good old soul had no cause for fear. I needed no other protection than my own honest heart, and the memory of my dear mother's lessons, and these availed me so well that the young cavaliers would tell my companions that Georgette was like a branch of her own wild eglantine, worthless when viewed from a distance, and when approached without precaution, found to be full of rough thorns and prickles.
“I used to walk in the morning down the Boulevards, and sometimes also through some of the more frequented streets in their vicinity, for I was at that time but a young beginner, and forced to go myself in quest of customers.
“I would frequently stand at the corner of the Rue Poissonière, for I had been told that the station was a good one, owing to the pupils of the Conservatoire, a giddy, thoughtless race, who, never capable of resisting temptation, would spend upon a smart bouquet, or bunch of violets, what had been set aside to lengthen the frugal breakfast. From habit, I soon grew familiar with their appearance, and could tell any one of the tribe at a glance. There was no mistaking the jaunty gait, and slovenly attire. Some betrayed themselves by the thick rolls of music they carried in their hands, some by the manner in which they tripped along, humming the airs from some popular opera, but most of all did they make themselves known by the stray curl-papers which would peep from among the artificial buds and blossoms bedecking the inside of the showy bonnet.
“I had observed but one of the whole troop whose appearance differed from this description. She was a pale, melancholy-looking girl, whose large dark eyes, full of a restless, unquiet expression, were shaded by lashes dark, too, as the raven's wing, with coal black hair, rested in smooth shining bands upon a forehead, whose snowy whiteness was traversed by many a blue vein, indicative of languor and ill health. “ Many a time had I observed her stop as she passed me on her way
to the school to contemplate the contents of my basket.
She would sometimes hang over the Powers for a few moments, as though she had intended to make a purchase, and then suddenly tearing herself away with a sigh, retake the arm of her companion and hurry down the street with a quicker pace than before.
“What first attracted my attention to the poor child, was the evident admiration, it might almost be called passion, with which she would stop to gaze on the flowers which I held for sale, seeming to inhale their fragrance with rapture. At first I used to accost her with a request to pur
chase, but when I found that this only drew a deep blush to her cheek, and a few muttered words of excuse from her lips, I desisted. To own the truth, I was pleased and flattered at the undisguised admiration she would express at the arrangement and selection of my bouquets, and by degrees I grew to watch for her coming with a kind of pleasure, and to grieve when the best of my flowers had been carried off before she had seen them. She was the only being who sympathised with me in such ardent admiration of these gems of the creation, and I have often felt more delight at one soft breathed exclamation of rapture which fell from her pale thin lips on beholding any peculiar beauty in my newly-gathered posies, than in the jingling sound of the silver coin thrown by the young gallant into the pocket of my apron, as the price of the very same flowers.
“The whole appearance of the little maiden, so gentle and so modest, formed a striking contrast with that of her companions. The very élève by whom she was always accompanied, partook of all the characteristics of her flaunting and thoughtless sisterhood. She was a tall, showy girl, with a very handsome, good-humoured countenance, always attired in some dazzling large patterned cotton print, the flaring colours of which would cause me to tingle even to my very fingers' ends. In fact, her gown always produced upon my nerves the same effect as the creaking of a door, or a false note upon the ear of a musician. It set my teeth on edge.
“ Notwithstanding this, however, the girl seemed a good-natured soul, and I must say that I never saw her behave in any way roughly towards her beautiful and melancholy companion. I observed, indeed, that she always spoke with a studied gentleness to her, as she would have done to soothe a tender infant, and when the little maid would linger over long before
my basket, she would merely content herself, when the hour was late, by pulling her along good-naturedly, and exclaiming,
« « Mon Dieu! Paquerette,'* (how I loved the name !) what can there be so curious to behold in a few gathered roses ?'
“ One fine summer's morning I repaired to my station earlier than usual, for there was great bustle and hurrying to and fro in the Rue Poissonière. The annual concours was to take place on that day, and soon the street was crowded with troops of joyous youths and anxious maidens, whose beating hearts and flushed countenances plainly bespoke the hope which each felt to be distinguished on that day. My heart was with poor Paquerette, and of all that joyous crew, she was the only one for whom my prayers ascended. I waited all day upon that station, and remained to a much later hour than usual, impelled by a feeling of interest which I had never felt before upon any similar occasion. I had endeavoured to divert my ennui by weaving a little garland of my unsold violets, as a trial of skill. How beautiful it was! white and blue, with the dark green dewy leaves encircling each bunch, fit to adorn the brows of a youthful poetess, or, the idea has struck me since, to throw upon the cold, damp, bosom of a corpse.
“ It was late when the séance broke up, and soon, to the rattling of departing carriages, succeeded the outpouring of the pupils. Some evidently more pert and self-sufficient than when they repaired thither in the morning, others, alas ! with countenances which betrayed the impress of
• Mountain, or field daisy.